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    September 23, 1999

Derrida wannabe

We have another Derrida wannabe [Sohrab Mahdavi in "Lamentations of Laleh Khalili"] who has decided to write by way of aphorisms and who can with a straight face make a sentence into a whole paragraph: "Through the valiant effort of this army of preservationists, and with the aide of every possible technological breakthrough they were able to restore the painting to a state were no one, least the Dutch public whose historical treasure this was, could tell, save by the earlier din which echoed vandalism alive, that the restored painting was indeed so."

And he is arrogant enough to construct every sentence as if it were truth as opposed to mere conjectures on his parts such as: "...indeed our very historical sense is shaped by the spiral Guggenheim, the politically correct Smithsonian, the west-wooded Armand Hammer. Shirin-e Neshat can rapturously sing for our eyes in uppity exhibition halls around the States."

Sir, many of us have never even heard of these fine museums/institutions nor subscribe to their ethical/esthetic sensibilities.

And before marrying Jameson to Heidegger or equating modernity to history or getting cute with Iranian history (e.g. K-2 era), remember that this thirst to understand modernity through the oriental lens is not exclusively ours or belonging to our time. Many of our predecessors were as obsessed with modernity as "we" seemingly are (e.g. Shariati, Hedayat, Kasravi, Al-e-Ahmad etc.)

It is however the habit of every new generation to call the fight against or for modernity its own (Gandhi seems ancient history now, doesn't he?). Let's have a little more respect for history and not force it down every little intellectual canal we find lying around.

Ramin Tabbib

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